Monday, August 4, 2008

Cosmos ex Natura 1: Introduction

Following on from the second to last posting, I'm going to unfold a creative blog on the idea that what we have learned from the scientific description of reality can become the foundation for a spiritual revolution that forms a tectonic ground-shift, transforming our view of religion, sweeping away many of the false assumptions, and diabolical contrivances, lurking in the hallowed cloisters of traditional religious systems.

Religious traditionalists take two approaches to science. The soft-core approach is to say science and religion are not inconsistent and can come together to give us a more complete view of reality. Both the Vatican and liberal Episopalians, as well as some Sufis, embrace this point of view in some aspects, leading for example to a greening of liberal religion. In this vein we arrive at the notion that we can live in a best of all possible worlds, where science is a description of the objective physical universe, which does not deny our capacity to have faith, and to embrace the higher realities of spiritual belief, in the conscious dimension.

The soft-core school clings to the idea that, although living with the stark reality of the covers thrown off reality, in the scientific age of the third millennium, we can continue to retain relatively unscathed treasured values such as agape or brotherly love, and even the highly pagan sacraments of soma and sangre, despite nature being a matter of tooth and claw, and science remaining uncompromising in its objectivity.

The hard-core approach, by contrast, is to champion religion in a collision course with unproven scientific assumptions which are perceived as contrary to religious scripture and bluntly materialistic in nature having no useful guidance in how to live our lives.

Evolution is a primary target and Creationism and its offshoot, Intelligent Design, claiming novelty but actually echoing from the days of Augustine seeks to finesse the scientific description with the idea that life, the universe and everything is somehow too complex and wonderful to be merely the blind groping, and pulling up by the boot-straps, of random evolution, and thus bears the imprint of a creator designer.

A second direction of assault on the scientific description is that it fails to explain consciousness or free-will and thus fails to give any adequate explanation for the meaning and purpose of sentient existence, or why we should be good people rather than violent criminals or suicidal maniacs.

Religion, by contrast has always been steeped in the description of conscious reality and the ultimate questions of morality, sin and whether there is life after death. Religions from diverse cultures from Islam, through Hinduism and Buddhism to Taoism and diverse ethnic beliefs, have different twists to this tale, including the idea from Indian philosophy that consciousness is 'finer' than gross matter and so any cosmology has to stem from primary consciousness rather than the secondary aggregates of material form.

In this blog, we are first going to look at each of the traditional views of major religions and see how well they actually address the existential dilemma in their cosmological narratives and then compare these with the difficulties and perceived limitations of the scientific description. This will then provide a more level playing field, in which the scientific description, which is already founded on the skeptical principle, as a root means of testing validity, can be compared with religious cosmological narratives based on affirmative belief, and religious narratives put to the same kind of scrutiny, rather than hiding behind the indulgence that belief somehow permits double standards, in which scripture and religion are on an unquestioning pedestal, as the revealed word of God or al-Llah which cannot be questioned by mere sentient beings.

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